The coaches of the two big Madrid clubs, talking on Saturday in Jeddah ahead of the Spanish Super Cup final, said they are still learning and growing.
Zinedine Zidane, who returned to Real last season, told a press conference for Sunday’s match that he considers himself a “better” coach than he was during his first term on the club’s bench from 2016 to 2018.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who spoke later, agreed.
“Of course, you get better with the years,” said the Argentine, in his ninth season as Atletico coach.
“All these accumulated experiences, if you learn from them, you get better in life. I think I’ve progressed in life as well as in football, and I think that’s linked.”
Zidane also linked growth as a coach to growth as a person.
“I listen a lot, because the people around me are really worthwhile. That’s why I’m making a lot of progress as a coach, as a person, and that’s always been my goal,” he said.
Zidane won three straight Champions League titles in his first spell in charge at the Bernabeu yet he feels he has improved at his job.
“I consider myself better, I feel good, I feel I’m progressing,” the French coach said. “We learn from every situation, from people.”
He returned in March with Real struggling and has revived their form.
“The team hasn’t changed much,” he said. “But I have.”
Atletico overhauled their squad last summer and according to Simeone are in a “transitional year”.
He also said their display, as they scored twice in the last nine minutes to beat Barcelona 3-2 in the semi-final on Thursday, showed that “some youngsters have arrived.”
“You can see that they want to improve, and that gives me immense hope,” he said.
“My energy is my footballers. When I see that my players are good, I’m not afraid of anything.”
Facing an opponent like Real “helps us and makes us better,” he said, praising Zidane as “a coach who wins everything, who conveys that feeling that you have to win.”
Zidane said matches like Sunday’s final were the most important to Real “because there’s a trophy at stake.”
“That’s what we’ve prepared for,” he said. “That’s the law of this club.”
Both men were asked about Ernesto Valverde, who has taken Barcelona back to the top of La Liga but who flew back to Spain after the loss to Atletico with his job reportedly once more under threat.
“For me, Valverde is a huge coach,” said Simeone. “He’s proved over the last few years that he has the ability to lead that club.”
Zidane was more circumspect.
“What is happening to Valverde happens to all of us coaches. And that’s never going to change,” he said.